Ellington provides electricity in second half of home opener loss


Ashanti Thomas

Guard Yaakema Rose Jr. (4), yells in excitement after center player Nick Ellington (11), dunks the ball during their game vs. Illinois State University. The Panthers lost to the Redbirds 54-49 in Lantz Arena.

Autumn Schulz, Sports Editor

Junior center Nick Ellington was the spark off the bench that the Eastern men’s basketball team needed in the second half of its 54-49 home opener loss to Illinois State Thursday evening. 

The Panthers were trailing 28-16 as the buzzer sounded at halftime as they struggled greatly on offense after shooting just 25.93 percent from the field.  

The Panthers did not make any three-pointers in the first half, either, going 0-of-7 from the three-point line. They also went 2-of-6 from the free throw line. 

As the Panthers took the court to start the second half, it was clear that the adjustments made in the locker room would need to take effect. 

The Panthers had the lead cut 32-24 after Yaakema Rose Jr. knocked the ball out of the Redbirds’ hands, causing a scramble on the floor for the ball. The Panthers were able to regain possession and Rose Jr. made a jumper. 

The very next possession, Dan Luers passed the ball to Ellington for a dunk in the paint, cutting the lead to 32-28. 

Lantz Arena exploded in cheers.  

“I mean, anytime you can come off the bench and help your team, it’s an amazing feeling, especially when you make a play, and you got the whole gym erupting and that’s an amazing feeling,” Ellington said. “That’s something you just can’t recreate that in any moment.” 

Center Nick Ellington (11), dunks the ball for the second time of the night and earns 8 points at their game against Illinois State University. The Panthers lost to the Redbirds 54-49 in Lantz Arena.

The Panthers then forced the Redbirds to two consecutive shot clock violations. Junior guard Kinyon Hodges was then fouled on the shot, sending him to the free throw line, tying the game 32-32. 

Ellington had another dunk later in the second half and he put that energy into his defensive efforts as well as he forced a jump ball with four minutes to go. 

Coach Marty Simmons said the energy could be felt no matter where you were in Lantz. 

“We want all of our guys to play with energy,” Simmons said. “I thought Yaakema Rose had defensive pressure in the second half when we knocked the ball loose. I mean, it just goes through your entire team and actually, it goes through the entire building. We’re fired up and I think that had a lot, you know, with our run in the second half.” 

The Panthers had the lead cut down to 50-49 with a minute to go after Rose Jr. successfully attacked the basket. However, the Redbirds stalled during their possession, forcing the Panthers to foul to get the ball back. 

A missed three-pointer by freshman guard Kyle Carlesimo would end the Panthers’ chances of tying the game and forcing overtime, sealing the victory for the Redbirds. 

The Panthers shot 40 percent from the field in the second half and 18 percent from the three-point line. 

Kinyon Hodges led the Panthers in scoring with 14 points, four rebounds and one assist. Rose Jr. was second on the team with eight points, eight rebounds and three assists. 

Simmons said that Hodges’ foul trouble against the Redbirds can be attributed to his effort. 

“Kinyon, he’s a fun guy to coach, you know, he just got in foul trouble,” Simmons said. “He’s just got to be a little smarter when you’re playing with three fouls. He’s an aggressive dude and he wants to steal it and pick up that fourth but his heart’s always in the right place.” 

The Panthers are now 0-2 on the season as they are on the road for their next matchup against Central Michigan on Sunday at 1 p.m.  

 Autumn Schulz can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]